Understanding diagnostic discography

October 8, 2019

diagnostic discographyDiscography is a diagnostic technique used to evaluate back pain. More specifically, the procedure helps to identify if an abnormal disc in the spine is the source of pain.

This  is an invasive test that generally isn’t used for an initial evaluation of back pain. We might suggest a discogram if your back pain persists despite conservative treatments, such as medication and physical therapy.

Diagnostic discogram procedure

During the discogram, we inject a contrast x-ray dye into the soft center of one or more discs. As the patient, you will be asked to describe your pain at the injection occurs. The injection of a disc may trigger more intense pain, or may feel relative to the daily pain a patient experiences. This association of pain with a particular disc can be subjective, as it is in your hands to identify the pain.

The contrast dye is also used to form a more conclusive diagnosis. During the procedure, we will use a type of medical imaging called fluoroscopy. When there are tears, or fissures, in the lining of a disc, the imaging will show the dye spreading outside of the disc itself.

Diagnostic discography can take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour to perform. The length of the procedure depends primarily on the number of discs which are being injected. The greater number of discs, the longer the procedure.

While a discogram is used for the purpose of diagnosis, it should not be used early in the diagnostic process. Discography is a viable option if you have chronic pain and have exhausted other pain treatment methods such as physical therapy, medication, and more. 

Once your procedure is complete, we will review the images and the information you provided about the pain you had during the procedure to help pinpoint the source of your back pain. We will then use this information to help us guide your treatment going forward.

Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop shop for pain management

With a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.